ANALYSIS: The NFL Draft begins in 52 days, and like a standard deck of 52 cards, thoughts on the potential direction the Panthers will go with the 30th pick will shuffle multiple times between now and April 28.
Our first in a series of looks at the cottage industry that is the mock draft features two prospects apiece at defensive end, offensive tackle and cornerback. That's not really a surprise because mock drafts more often than not are built on teams' perceived needs, and most observers view the Panthers' loaded roster facing the most need at those spots.
At this early juncture, the sampling of mock drafters featured this week feel that one of the prospects above is very likely to be available when the Panthers pick in the first round, while one is likely to be gone. Chris Burke of SI.com projects Carolina to select Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker in the first round, but none of the other five mock drafters think he'll still be on the board. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com likes Indiana offensive tackle Jason Spriggs to the Panthers, and all of the mock drafters think Spriggs will be available at No. 30.
Four of the five other mock drafters don't think Daniel Jeremiah's selection of Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple will be possible, while all but one believe that Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller will be there when Robert Mays of SI.com suggests the Panthers pick him.
In the case of the two defensive ends featured this week, the mock drafters are split down the middle regarding their likely availability at No. 30, but the position will no doubt be one mentioned by mockers many times over. The Panthers recently released defensive end Charles Johnson and Jared Allen announced his retirement. That, combined with general manager Dave Gettleman's belief in the importance of defensive line play and his contention that this year's draft is deep at the position, could prove to be the end-all talk among mockers over the next seven-plus weeks.